Top 5 college men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight

The madness of March has descended onto college men’s volleyball.

No. 1 Loyola and Penn State highlights the slate of matches tonight as both teams eye picking up another signature non-conference victory that could impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. In addition, No. 7 USC will play host to Cal State Northridge and needs a victory to remain in contention for a possible NCAA Tournament at-large bid.


Check out the top five college men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight.

1. No. 1 Loyola (17-1, 9-0 MIVA) vs. No. 14 Penn State (14-4, 6-1 EIVA)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Chicago
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: Loyola will get its biggest non-conference test since the season’s opening weeks as it plays host to Penn State. The Ramblers are on a nation-best 15-match winning streak, and the team defeated its conference-rival No. 10 Lewis on Tuesday to expand its first-place lead in the MIVA. However, Loyola has lost its last three matches against Penn State dating back to 2011. It also will be the first non-conference match for Loyola against a nationally ranked team since playing Harvard in January. The Nittany Lions begin their weekend Midwest road trip after splitting their matches last week at the Active Ankle Tournament. Penn State swept Cal State Northridge before losing to the tournament-host No. 2 Long Beach State for its third loss in its last four road matches. This match will also feature two of the servers in the nation. Loyola All-American outside attacker Joseph Smalzer leads the MIVA with a 0.75 aces per game average, while Penn State outside attacker Aaron Russell has an EIVA-best 0.52 aces per game average. Penn State coach Mark Pavlik also said in an interview with Off the Block earlier this week that the Nittany Lions’ ability upset the Ramblers will come down to if it can control the serving game.

2. No. 7 USC (12-8, 11-8 MPSF) vs. Cal State Northridge (7-12, 6-10 MPSF)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Los Angeles
Follow live: Gametracker, Radio feed, In-match tweets
What to know: There will be a throwback feel to this USC home match. The Trojans forced out of their traditional homecourt of the Galen Center this weekend because of scheduling conflict will play this conference match against the Matadors at the historic North Gym. With a seating capacity of 1,000, North Gym was the original home of the Trojans in 1970 and except for a seven-year stretch remained the team’s permanent playing venue until 2002. USC enters this conference match tied for seventh place in the MPSF after defeating its rival then-No. 6 UCLA on Sunday. Freshman outside attacker Lucas Yoder had a match-high 20 kills in the victory and was named the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Freshman of the Week. The Trojans are also on a three-match winning streak playing at North Gym because of scheduling conflicts dating back to 2012. Cal State Northridge is in 10th place in the MPSF and 3.5 matches behind USC and No. 8 UC irvine for the final postseason berth to the conference tournament.


3. IPFW (16-4, 5-3 MIVA) vs. Grand Canyon (12-12, 2-7 MIVA)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: All-conference outside attacker Eddie Rivera one day after having one of his biggest offensive matches of the season will now face Grand Canyon again and help IPFW try to complete the series sweep. Rivera in the opener of the two-match series had a match-high five aces and added 12 kills as IPFW swept Grand Canyon on Thursday. The Mastodons in the conference victory finished with seven aces and their serving pressure contributed to the Antelopes having less than a .200 attack percentage in each of the first two games. The win also moved IPFW into a tie with Lewis for third place and a half-match behind a half-match behind second-place Ball State in the conference standings. Grand Canyon outside attacker Ben Ponnet finished with a match-high 15 kills against IPFW.

4. No. 10 Lewis (14-5, 5-3 MIVA) vs. St. Francis (9-8, 4-3 EIVA)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Romeoville, Ill.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: St. Francis will attempt to accomplish a feat that it has not achieved in almost 20 years: beat Lewis. The Red Flashes enter their annual non-conference match on a 12-match losing streak against the Flyers dating back to 1995. However, St. Francis has already ended one such non-conference losing streak earlier this season — beating Ball State for the second time in the last five years. Lewis enters this match after losing in four games to its conference rival No. 1 Loyola on Tuesday. The loss ended the Flyers’ five-match winning streak and dropped the team into third place in the MIVA. In addition, Lewis middle attacker Bobby Walsh enters the weekend second in the conference and among the nation’s top 10 with a 1.32 blocks per game average.

5. Barton (7-14, 3-6 CC) vs. King (8-15, 3-7 CC)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Bristol, Tenn.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: Two teams that have never reached the postseason and are fighting for the final spot to the Conference Carolinas Tournament will meet in a pivotal match as King plays host to Barton. Barton in its second year under head coach Jeff Lennox has a half-match lead on King for sixth place and the final berth to the conference tournament. In addition, Barton after having two combined wins in the program’s first two seasons has already more than tripled that win total this season. Outside attacker Zach McCalla leads the Bulldogs and is among the conference leaders with a 3.61 kills per game average, including having a team-high 21 kills in a four-game loss to Princeton on Wednesday. King enters on a three-match losing streak. However, outside attackers Nick Serowski and Eddie Moushikhian are both in the conference’s top 10 for kills per game average.